Vanuatu – a string of more than 80 islands once known as the New Hebrides – achieved independence from France and Britain in 1980.
Most of the islands are inhabited; some have active volcanoes.
Vanuatu is mountainous and much of it is covered with tropical rainforests. Like most of the area, it is prone to earthquakes and tidal waves. In 2015 it was hit by Cyclone Pam which caused widespread damage.
Most of the people live in rural areas and practise subsistence agriculture.
Local traditions are strong. Women, for example, generally have lower social standing than men and have fewer educational opportunities.
The island of Pentecost is home to land diving, a precursor to bungee jumping, which is still practised.
- Republic of Vanuatu
- Capital: Port-Vila
- Population 246,000
- Area 12,190 sq km (4,707 sq miles)
- Major languagesBislama, French, English
- Major religionsChristianity
- Life expectancy 70 years (men), 74 years (women)
- Currency vatu